All posts by Sally Singingtree

My Ears are open

My Ears Are Open

Snuggled against the soft earth

I listen for you

speaking in tongues

held deep in memory

Mother of all

holding the mystery

of greening life

on a molten planet

So ever-present

that I am blind

to the ways

of your constant embrace

Spongey soil beneath

ribs of my soft body

there as always

willing, giving

What have we 


through the ages

by not seeing you

Thinking we could 

own you

spread lies about you

pillage freely

Speak to me

in the old language

I can comprehend

My ears are open

Sally Singingtree,2021

Turtle Medicine

Turtle Medicine

It’s the last morning of my two week vacation in Maui. My husband and I are staying in our friend Trish’s condominium. Right now I’m sitting on the lanai listening to the cooing of zebra and spotted doves from the branches as first daylight softly graces the landscape all around me.  Each day here I’ve watched both the pastel dawn of sunrise and the melting light of molten sunset.  I’ve snorkeled warm ocean waters filled with life and experienced serendipities of meeting important strangers. Strangely, there are no bookstores here, and since I didn’t bring a book or a kindle, there’s been no escaping into beach reads. So, with one less escape hatch, it’s been easier to just be with the sand, sky, air and aloha spirit.

A longstanding desire of mine has been to be with sea turtles in their natural habitat.  A few years ago I almost drowned in strong ocean currents at a location in Kauai listed on a tourist map as a good place to swim with  turtles. I was rescued by a stranger who noticed that I was getting knocked back by the waves near the rocks while trying repeatedly to get to shore. Staying alive, especially when I hadn’t even considered that I might drown, was euphoric. After that reprieve, I became fearful and although I continued to appreciate turtles, my strong desire for a personal experience with them waned.  It seemed sufficient to draw them, appliqué quilt them into Hawaiian fabric creations and view them at the aquarium. 

Sometimes when you give up on something, it comes to you anyway. And so it was that while I was snorkeling in fairly shallow waters around Turtle Town and Black Rocks Beach a few days ago I looked down and was surprised and delighted to see two green turtles. They were moving gracefully near the ocean floor using their fore-flippers almost like wings to propel themselves around coral, rocks and sea life. I hovered a safe distance away where I could watch them. The waters were gentle, I was safe.

I’ve been fascinated with turtles since childhood. When I was seven I used the five dollar bill that my grandmother gave me for my birthday to purchase a small turtle, a high-rimmed clear plastic dish with a dry plateau in the middle and a box of turtle food from the Woolworths store on Main Street. Myrtle the Turtle lived in my room for several weeks until the day when I took him out in the grass and he disappeared.  

As an adult I once rescued a very large and vigorous snapping turtle from the center of a road using a broad shovel I just happened to have in the back of my car.  

One could say that “turtle” has become one of my “power animals”—which is to say that I have a special relationship with the essence of turtle and the healing wisdom it can bring into my awareness. Turtle carries it’s home with it wherever it goes, unlike me who has committed time and resources to getting away from home by going on a vacation.  Turtle doesn’t have to get away from it’s home, it couldn’t extricate itself safely even if it wanted to do so. Turtles swim and breathe within and through the ongoing life of the planet —they are both one with it although comprising several species of the reptile family, and to all appearances guide themselves according to environmental rhythms and seasons.  

What I’m trying to say is that perhaps I’m not as different from the turtle as I think I am. One way of looking at this is that I do carry my home with me, but it isn’t in the form of a  carapace—it’s the place of refuge within my being. When the human world around me provokes anxiety, pessimism, and alarm —I too have a home within. These vacation days have brought me to an inner sanctuary where I’ve experienced being part of the vast rhythms of life on this planet. 

Soon enough I’ll be back in my usual setting. Coming back from vacation offers an opportunity to tweak my former priorities and practices. Using the medicine spirit of turtle for guidance, hopefully I’ll honor the wisdom of my sensory self more than I did before vacation. Although, to my way of seeing, turtle has a simpler set of choices before it than I do—it doesn’t have to choose how best to live sustainably and with meaning.  As for me, once I get back from vacation, the dilemmas of twenty-first century life await.  

There always have been and always will be dangers that threaten life as we know it. I can’t change that. What the world asks of me is to offer the most healing part of myself back into life around me. That part of me is rooted in my inner home, the still, calm presence within that I do know how to access. The part of me that grows from that place is vibrant, creative, and seeks harmony with the forces around her. That part of myself is related to turtle, it is just not obvious.

Beyond Despair: No Mistakes

July-August 2018

Beyond Despair

On a national and international political level what I see happening is deeply distressing. An alarming number of elected leaders seem to be looking the other way as government policies, civil rights and long-held diplomatic norms are brushed aside, as if they have no value. Evidence abounds about possible foreign influence on elections in several countries. Even old alliances and friendships among progressive democracies are at risk. While widespread protests occur frequently at the grassroots level, there are only emasculated “checks and balances” operating at the governmental level. Big money entities are able circumvent regulations about buying influence, monopolizing markets and consolidating their power.  It seems that many elected leaders are so narrow-mindedly focused on justifying their own behavior and blaming everybody else that they appear unable to grasp the gravity of the situation let alone articulate possible constructive ways to move forward past the present morass.

Looking for signs of hope and wanting to keep up with what’s happening, I read news publications, talk with friends and offer a smile and greeting to others in the local community as I go about my weekly routines.  Although one doesn’t hear much of anything about it in the media, the regular people I meet face to face on a daily basis exhibit kindness and generosity to each other.

What to make of all this?

Most everyone wants to stay informed about what is going on in the world around them —it’s a basic survival trait. In today’s world people are able to choose from a plethora of news sources—print, radio, television and the information super highway.  The pervasiveness of the global internet has reorganized the way we receive and process information in ways that are both wondrous and foul.  Right before our unwitting eyes, the internet posts news sites and pop-ups that have a nefarious purpose to incite fractiousness, bigotry and hatred. It’s an invasion — only in this instance there are no tanks or millions of ground soldiers—now it’s cyber warfare. Why bother to crack the strength of the nation from without if you can surreptitiously sow dissension within, through pitting various factions against each other? It’s an old game with fresh weapons.

And our collective response? Are we on a devolving cycle in terms of our political consciousness or is this a wake-up call? What portion of the “we” will hold sway as we move forward? Good questions.

From a personal place, what is my optimal stance as I live in these times? I’ve suffered an attack as well.  My ability to hold steadfast to my former inner guidance system has been shaken. There are times I could just go curl up in a small, walled off part of myself and lament. And while lamenting is an apt initial emotional response, I am reminded that the world of politics has always been a place of treachery as well as social progress.

The place where I can affect something positive begins in the privacy of my heart and soul. There I can open into relationship with my deeper self, an enduring awareness that is both subject to the laws of planetary life as well as spiritually cosmic. At this level I know I’m interconnected with everything— the problems, the solutions and the potential for ever-expanding relationships that honor the wholeness of life—this is my true field of being.

The poet Rumi once said,

                        Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,

                        there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

                        When the soul lies down in that grass

                        the world is too full to talk about.

                        Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

                        doesn’t make any sense.

Inspired by those words, I’m doing what I can to bring my awareness to an inner meadow suffused with light, fertile ground, and divine inter-connection — music, meditation, reading inspiring prose and poetry, gardening, heartfelt times with others and writing from my most authentic self —those are the pathways that incorporate my soul’s knowing about offering a meaningful presence into these times. Shifting gears so that I enter “the field” requires a choice. But once in that place I become aware that I was born for these times! My ego-self may feel under siege, but my deeper soul-self is emboldened to express the wellsprings of life that endure despite the chicanery of politics and power.

During a recent phone conversation about the state of things, my friend Peg threw in this comment: “There are no mistakes!”.  Crazy at it sounds at first, her remark points to another level of awareness from which it is clear that life affirming adaptations emerge out of dire circumstances.  Impermanence and suffering accompany all life. Was it a “mistake” that the collision of a giant asteroid with planet earth wiped out the ancient dinosaurs? Ask the songbird at a nearby bird feeder. Was it a “mistake” that Jesus suffered the kind of death that he did and then, by virtue of his relationship with Divine Source, demonstrated his inherent expansive transcendence, gave profound wisdom teachings and utilized the power of love to work miracles?  Ask the billions who embrace his example and wisdom.

Clearly, in our humanity alone we are vulnerable. None of us is immune to the alarming weather of our current circumstances. However, at the same time that many of us despair about the appearance of massive fault lines in modern democracy and civilized life among diverse peoples, we can also feel the emergence of strong currents of moral outrage, compassion and longing to bring a higher level of accountability into the public sphere. It’s all going on at once— The Holy Spirit coupled with the presence of Divine Love and Creation interpose themselves into physical pain and suffering in the long journey of life all the time.

As all major spiritual teachers have demonstrated — living from essential awareness is something we can bring forth from our depths into the world around us. Buddha could have chosen to remain in the palace, living the gilded life of a prince. Jesus could have gone into hiding instead of stepping forward into his radical demonstration that suffering and physical death could not splinter his connection with the breathing life of all that nurtures and sustains us.

We are more than just our confusion, lamentations and pain. Each of us belongs to something much larger than our earthly identifications of politics, gender, race, religion, socioeconomic class, and country. We are part and particle of life slowly coming to realize the full promise of itself. From this perspective nothing is a mistake, only grist for the mill — the milling process is ongoing. It is the wisdom of this perspective that emboldens the journey to move beyond despair and surface delusions into a fullness of understanding.  From this place may we all be guided to claim what is ours to bring into the thick of what’s happening right now.



Life Garden: Late Season

In my earlier years I believed that the world was moving toward peaceful co-existence. Coming of age during the sixties, I was convinced that my generation would make things different —even “fix” things. As I moved into my prime, I naïvely thought that millions of my peers and I were part of a leading edge of consciousness — what was then called a Harmonic Convergence. Later, as more years went by and the progress I had been anticipating seemed to be at risk, it became increasingly difficult to believe that the world was really moving toward peaceful co-existence. Yet, somehow I held onto confidence that, along with like-minded others, we would be able to circumnavigate most of the difficulties, at least where I lived. My practice became to focus on what was working and appreciate encouraging developments.

These days the state of affairs has grown alarming. An uncomfortable proportion of those holding worldly reins of power have ceased to honor the general well-being to such an extent that the overall survival of life is threatened.  Whoever would have predicted that children would be gunned down in our schools on a regular basis with almost nothing being done by those with the power to stop it from happening again and again and again?  Whoever would have thought that genocide could happen on the watch of a woman who won the Nobel Peace prize? Whoever would have thought that a sitting U.S. president could lie his way into office and then proceed blithely along as if his made up reality was a basis from which to subvert due process of law, and collude with a hostile foreign power?  Who would have believed that in this day and age refugees from war torn areas worldwide —mothers, fathers, children, the elderly—would be left to drown, starve or be brutally killed? Who would have anticipated that dreamers in our country would face deportation simply because they have the wrong color of skin or religion?

For the last several years I have been caught up in a compulsion to read the latest news articles and editorial commentary, which is all too easy to do when I keep a smart phone in my pocket almost all the time. I keep hoping to read something that indicates that things can’t get any worse in the political realm and for the environment. Surely something will happen to turn things around. I’m looking for a groundswell of public outrage and collective coming to our senses sufficient to set our interconnected world on a more humanitarian, life-affirming course. Mostly what I read is disheartening. It’s no wonder that I feel like a sitting duck.  Greed for power and profit flowing out of those who already have “enough” threatens us all. Wish I could  just transport myself to another, better world. But, like it or not, this is the era I’m in.  I’ve just gotta live here. The only guaranteed physical escape is the inevitable demise of my skin encapsulated self. But, in the meantime I have choices about where I direct my attention and how I choose to  live my life.

It seems to me that trying to “fix” things is both the saving grace of humanity as well as a fork in the road where we get lost. Who wouldn’t want to make things better? But how to go about it? Well, there’s the rub. A lot of fixes are short sighted with dreadful unintended consequences. Despair is inevitable when I spend too much time following the latest breaking news. To discover and embody places of hope, vitality and joy, I must seek it.

Almost two decades ago I graduated from seminary and was ordained an interfaith minister. Speaking at the ceremony, I traced the etymology of the word “ordination” to the root word “ordinary”. I vowed to dedicate my ministry to the ordinary  –  the “hiding in plain sight” places frequently overlooked, yet holding transformative potential — far beyond the ordinary meaning of ordinary. One example of this is just noticing the breath: as we inhale our nostrils flare slightly, our ribs expand, the breath flows throughout our entire body; upon exhaling the chest collapses ever-so-slightly as the warm particles of our breath merge with the air around us. Something as “ordinary” as mindful breathing helps us redirect our focus towards a calm center of being, rather than an anxious or uncomfortably emotional state of consciousness. We have our breath with us all the time.

While I was speaking I was lifting a slow heartbeat rhythm from my handmade elk skin drum. I explained that the heartbeat of the drum evoked the rhythms of Mother Earth and the relationships that interconnect of all life.  I told the congregation that for me ordination wasn’t about being special or above it all. Ordination was a sacred promise to be in the thick of everything while aspiring to bring an awareness that was greater than the agenda of the moment or the angst around suffering and injustice. My goal was to be a vehicle for compassionate presence all around, perhaps sprinkled with sustaining wisdom. I knew it wasn’t so easy. or as simple as it sounded. The temptation to lament, defame and judge is strong. The desire to impose my solution is often on the tip of my tongue. Sometimes the hardest thing is to just BE with everything as it is—and to remember to notice what is neutral, or even uplifting such as— my breath cycle, the pads of my wiggly toes touching the ground, the wild beauty of an oak tree, or the feeling of joy as I encounter the smiling eyes of a fellow being. These kinds of experiences are right at hand — both ordinary and extraordinary.

Over the years, I brought my ministry into hospital, hospice and community settings where I had the privilege to offer my presence over and over again. I also witnessed first hand the sorts of things many people regret when facing end-of-life issues.

Nowadays I’m entering elderhood. I’m tending a late season harvest in my own life garden. Over the years I’ve nourished the soil as best I knew how —regularly amended it with professional training and learning experiences, forked in significant “raw” ingredients , and carefully added beneficial micronutrients from my family. Attempting to remove residual toxicity, I’ve sifted through the whole mix and the result is wonderful compost for life here and now.

There’s a new voice blossoming in my life garden —that of Grandmother Storyteller. She appeared recently, much like a seed that lies dormant in the soil for years before sprouting. Seems like the conditions are ripe; she’s  been readying herself for this moment in time, adding a wise perspective to all the earlier seasons and events.

The phoenix has risen out of the ashes many times. Even as so much of life as we have known it is dying or is threatened, there is also life a-borning— in the midst of everything. If we had the wherewithal to create the problems, we must have the wherewithal to bring about better circumstances. Like most of us, I am both complicit in the difficulties as well as a part of the healing. My aspiration is to bring healing awareness and wisdom into the entire circle of life.


Sally Singingtree
March 2018

Long Nights


Long Nights

The days are so short now; the darkness closes in by late afternoon. In former times I used to rail against the disappearance of daylight; I felt robbed. Now I let the skin of my being lean into the warm nighttime of my cozy home as it stands within the starry universe. It’s easier to feel that I belong to something spectacular when I don’t have to see the tawdriness that daylight exposes. It’s possible to loosen my fixation on clock time and to feel a relationship with a continuum of life that plods forward like a caravan of camels making its way through the ages. What is one short night in comparison to 13.8 billion years of existence? The answer is: everything! Everything is here now, just as it always has been—love, cruelty, birth, pregnancy, death, despair, kindness and shoving compassion aside for temporary gain. Life is constant in all its faces. These nights I burrow into a solstice time she-bear cave, in the middle of a starry heaven shining starlight throughout my world.

Japanese Maple Leaves

Day is breaking upon a new morning. First light shines through the brilliant red, orange and green leaves adorning the Japanese Maple tree which grows just outside the big window in front of me. My eyes are lingering as if to soak in the exquisite hues of the delicate leaves. Even in these muted, foggy rays of dawn there is no hiding of this impassioned beauty that is coming forth from the small tree.
For me, it is an important reminder about the priority of letting myself be awakened and absorbed by the splendor of the natural world around me. It may be that the experience of these leaves stays with me all day or longer. My prayer is that their blazing vibrance does indeed energize my abiding connection with the rhythms, seasons and vital forces that bless my days here as part of human kind.
As much as I am able, I have dedicated my days here to this
purpose: that my thoughts, actions and being are in harmony with the elemental energies that vivify Earth and all beings who know her to be their home.
Rev. Sally B. Singingtree
November 2017

Pickling Harmonie

Pickling Harmonie

by Sally Singingtree
August 2017

It’s pickling season and this year I’ve discovered a variety of cucumber that makes the best dill pickles I’ve ever tasted. I grow some cucumbers in my garden and buy the rest from Libby at the local farmer’s market. Most cucumber plants are garden devas— demanding constant attention. One afternoon they preen with lush big leaves, a multitude of yellow blossoms, and verdant green baby cucumbers; yet for all that glory, by the very next morning the foliage can look wretched—covered with unsightly powdery mildew or blotches of scab. Organic treatment options are short lived and require frequent application. This year one of the farmers at the Wednesday market introduced me to “harmonie” cucumbers—intrepid growers that deliver without all the ups and downs. The dark green skin is tender and not too thick, the inner pulp flavorful, not bitter, the seeds are small and the plants are healthy and beautiful day in and out, thriving on drip irrigation, lots of sunshine and fertile soil.

I enjoy making my own pickles—it’s something I took up after being inspired by Aunt Rose’s pickles. In the beginning I used the ubiquitous hot water bath, vinegar based method, the same process my aunt used. About five years ago I began using the ancient brine fermentation process which relies on beneficial yeast and bacteria to preserve cucumbers by transforming them into pickles. It’s a simple technique; plus there’s no boiling a huge pot of hot water on a hot summer day. The night before I plan to pickle, I heat half a gallon of filtered water into which I dissolve 3 Tablespoons of salt; I let it cool overnight. The next day I gather cucumbers, lots of dill, garlic, peppercorns and a few grape leaves. Once everything is assembled, I carefully pack a big pickling crock with all the loose ingredients, and then pour the brine solution over everything. The mixture needs to stay submerged beneath the surface of the brine—it’s an anaerobic fermentation process — so I weight it down with a ceramic stone, and place a cover over the crock. The fermentation process will take a week or two.

As the cukes soak, mold, scum (also known as bloom) and weird looking bubbles form on top of the brine. This stuff is kinda scary looking; but it’s different from the fuzzy growth on top of leftovers at the back of the refrigerator; it won’t hurt you. Kitchen germ-o-phobes and refrigeration police would probably freak out at this point if they observed the brew, but humans have been preserving vegetables this way for thousands of years. Every day or so I skim off the bloom. After about 5-7 days soaking in the brine, the pickles are ready to taste. The first time I did this I half thought I might die, but I risked it anyway. I took a teeny bite, informed my husband so he’d know what to tell the paramedics if necessary, and waited to see if I survived until the next morning. I woke up feeling great—eager to take another taste of the pickles in process. I sliced a chunk off one of the cucumbers; it was almost ready, just needed another day or two. Once the pickles reached the ideal flavorful and still crunchy state, I packed them into wide-mouth quart Mason jars and refrigerated them.

Ingredients & Equipment:

“harmonie” cucumbers
grape leaves
1/2 gallon filtered water + 3 Tbsp. salt
fermentation crock
weight + cover

Deirdre Rawlings provides the following description:
“Fermentation happens when microorganisms (natural bacteria and some yeasts) feed on the sugar and starch in food, converting them into lactic acid in a process known as lacto-fermentation…
Lacto-fermentation creates beneficial bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, and various strains of probiotics (live beneficial microorganisms). An added benefit just happens to be an increased shelf life of food.”
(Rawlings, Deirdre Ph.D.,N.D. Fermented Foods for Health. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press, 2013, p.6.)

The nutritional health benefits of these pickles is mainly in the probiotics, a term meaning “for life”. These microorganisms form during the long soak in the brine. Probiotics have very beneficial properties for the intestinal flora. Even before science told us anything about probiotics, our distant forebears knew that eating a little sauerkraut, chutney, or a few pickle slices with a meal helped to keep the gut happy.

A few Saturdays ago, as I was packing up a late summer pickle batch, rioting was taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia. The KKK, neo-Nazis and alt-right neo-fascists—many of them carrying assault weapons and dressed in riot gear— were marching to protest the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Human rights counter-demonstrators had gathered as well—mostly groups and individuals practicing nonviolence but they were joined by antifa , an armed group ready to physically defend themselves and others from the violence of white supremacists. The situation was volatile and became deadly. I was getting “breaking news alerts” on my i-phone every few minutes. The intimidating vitriol and brazen incitement to violence had begun Friday night when white supremacists led a torch-lit march through the streets. By Saturday morning the scene was dry tinder. Like many, I was profoundly shaken. I had mistakenly assumed that our country’s old wounds were more healed than they are. I wonder if we will ever arrive at a time when we will live together amicably in an environment of dynamic harmony among all the different voices? Sometimes the discrepancy between what I hope for and what I hear on the news feels like it’s starting to pickle my brain!

But seriously, sometimes it helps to clarify a situation by noticing the partial similarities between two different processes. So, viewing our current socio-political situation via the analogy of fermentation and probiotics, what can we discern? Are there any correspondences between the fermenting process and the social unrest thats been brewing in our country for a very long time?

Just as mold and scum inevitably form on top of the brine during the early stages of transforming raw vegetables into fermented food, so to do unsavory human elements break forth during times of change and disruption of historical norms. Unfortunately, as we are seeing now, things often get dangerous before they (hopefully) improve. What we previously assumed was unshakable progress in our political/social/community environments is now threatened. The effect of changing times upon those who feel left behind creates a backlash of resentment, seething anger, and a longing to return to sugar-coated versions of an idealized past greatness. Yet most of us realize that it’s impossible to wrench things backwards; change resides in the conditions of the “here and now”. However it’s essential that we appreciate the difference between nostalgia and benefitting from the lessons of history—cautionary tales that can help us avoid repeating similar tragic mistakes in the present day.

During the Civil War General Lee authorized and personally committed despicable violence, torture and other hateful actions towards African Americans. Lee and most other confederates were unable to recognize that skin color is unrelated to human value, that all people are worthy of justice and compassion, and that torture, lynching and splitting families apart are depraved actions which only intensify the problems. After defeat of the Confederacy, after Jim Crow, after government mandated integration, after a black man was elected president of the United States— these attitudes festered in the psyches of many angry, fearful people who felt deprived of their glory days as top dogs. This is the legacy that the statues of General Lee venerate.

From another vantage point, the leaders of the Confederacy provided valuable lessons about what doesn’t work. Mistakes are an invaluable part of human advancement. Edison had many failures before he invented the incandescent light bulb. We don’t need to build monuments to mistakes; but to create a better future we must learn from them. Perhaps those empty pedestals where statues of confederate heroes once stood could portray newly sculpted figures showing humanity’s hard won progress along with humanity’s ongoing ability to birth inspiring solutions. Wouldn’t it be great if our public places were decorated with images of people coming together to work towards a future that holds pervasive social justice, equal opportunity and satisfying lives for all?

So, getting back to our analogy between fermentation and the current social/political unrest: what life-affirming benefits may be aborning within the roiling of disagreements, threats, and violence? Just as probiotics are formed in the alchemy beneath the scum of my vegetable ferment, I take comfort that this top layer that exposed to the air is also called “bloom”—the precursor to fruiting. From this perspective it is entirely possible that those who are now fermenting in in anger and vitriol are equally subject to the process of transformation. It’s within the realms of possibility that love and compassion will bubble into a state of bloom for many of those who went into the process only wanting disruption.

Once things have pickled long enough, we may begin to see more formerly disaffected people participating in compassionate, loving and wise grassroots action and public policy. Compassion is not the same thing as pity; it’s putting ourselves in another’s shoes and beginning to feel what that must be like. Love isn’t romantic or sentimental; rather it’s seeing and knowing with the intelligence of a caring, wise heart. Only when we’ve stewed around in the ferment long enough to realize that hating and killing doesn’t bring about anything except more wounding, reciprocal violence and fear do we realize that what we really want is harmony instead of dissonance, cooperation rather than provocation.

Clearly, the process we are in is frightening but there is also cause for hope. While I can’t possibly connect all the dots, nonetheless I have faith that what is currently brewing in this alchemical mix of raw betrayal, trauma, confusion, and demagoguery is the possibility of a “blooming” future of significant healing transformation and a time when people in our land can live together in more cooperative ways. Granted it would be a help if the top leadership had some sort of moral compass instead of just looking for the ego gratification of making deals, any deals. Without a doubt, we are in something of a pickle.

Fermenting raw ingredients is a messy, uncertain process. In the meantime, we can individually aspire to contribute compassion, wisdom, and loving kindness into the world around us. We can draw down deeper than our tendency to rant or blame or retreat and choose to be a calm presence in the midst of everything. Individually and collectively an evolution of consciousness is in the works. The healing factors for digesting and transmuting past evil and hate are beginning to exert some influence, even if we can’t see it yet.

How long will it take? There’s no timetable, and not everyone will choose to grow and heal; but many will undergo positive changes. Transformation is absolutely possible. I recall the story of John Newton, self proclaimed wretch, who felt the healing power of grace carry him into a new beginning. He turned away from his life as captain of a slave trading ship and chose instead to be an abolitionist, helping to bring about the end of the slave trade in England.

Deep within the briny slosh of confusion and suffering of our present time beneficial strands of transmutation we can’t taste, see or feel are alive. At some point in the not so distant future we will step into better ways of living cooperatively with each other. But for now, underneath the slime, we are pickling harmony.

Donkeys and Spiders

Donkeys and Spiders

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, calling into memory an historical sequence of events that launched “Holy Week” in the Christian religious tradition.  The significance of Palm Sunday goes well beyond remembering the story of a crowd waving palm branches to welcome and recognize a wisdom teacher unlike anyone else they had ever experienced. And it’s not just a commemoration of a past historical event either; Palm Sunday points to a dynamic that is present in our world and in my heart today.

In history, Palm Sunday was the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to face the human realities of his time and place, which would likely result in his execution. Even as he rode amidst the waving palm leaves, he was facing death.  He could have run for cover, gone into seclusion to save his skin or decided to play a political game by doing a flip-flop of his message to mollify his oppressors. No, there was none of that. He stayed true to who he knew he was and what he knew his mission in life to be; he was showing his followers a way of being that was radical departure from what they received from their culture and many of their religious leaders.

Although Jerusalem on the Sunday of Jesus’s arrival was a far cry from a modern city, it is eye-opening to realize that the politics of power, corruption, and militarized law enforcement bear striking similarity to our own urban centers.  Risking analogy, imagine that a person who belonged to a marginalized, sometimes rowdy ethnic group was processing into the capitol city bringing with him or her a significant crowd of followers. Such a gathering would certainly attract some attention.

According to tradition, Jesus was a “blended being” — completely human as well part of a seamless embodied relationship with the shimmering breath of all creation. With each step of his sandaled feet he carried not only the emotional, physical and mental reality of his humanity but also the embrace and knowing of the more expansive dimension of his nature. On Palm Sunday, this is what attracted the throngs to leave their homes and to come to Jerusalem. The stories and parables they’d heard called them to live in more compassionate, neighborly ways. Still ringing in their ears were phrases such as: “love your neighbor”, “turn the other cheek”, “forgive your enemies”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, “blessed are the meek”, “blessed are the peacemakers”.

These teachings reverberate across time! Today this way of being, challenging as it is, has millions of adherents —despite all the disruption and political treachery. The inspiration today is to KEEP GOING!  We are all interconnected, brothers and sisters of each other, stewards of our environment and bearing some individual responsibility for working things out with each other. Even in the middle of these discouraging times, many of us— across all faith traditions and outside them as well— know that living this way is the only way that makes sense.  Despite instances of ignorance, confusion and power-grabbing, we must keep plodding along, weaving our lives forward in the way of love.

Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday I went into my kitchen to put a few utensils in the dishwasher. There, walking with verve and attitude across the open stainless steel door was a medium sized brown spider. She startled me; she didn’t belong there.  I wondered if she was a young brown recluse; it would have been easy to smash the life out of her because I was afraid; but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I took a juice glass from the cupboard, grabbed a cardstock piece of junk mail and let the energetic spider crawl into her rescue apparatus. Why am I telling you this? Before setting her free in the backyard, I paused to inquire if there was a message. Yes, there was; she was a messenger. Spider reminded me that past, present and future are interwoven in a large web. The lessons of Palm Sunday vibrate across the strands into this moment. Even very small acts matter. Honoring the life of that brown spider was a small instance of connection to the teachings to honor life and all the interconnections. Who knows what insects that spider will eat outside in the yard that might have munched on my vegetable garden?

Over the weekend I attended an inspiring concert by dozens of local musicians,   organized by a local activist and former co-worker. It was a benefit event for the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and there was standing room only in the co-housing common house.  Financial contributions were robust, reflecting the compassionate, clear headed, resolve to offer money, music and embodied action in support of  harmony, justice and love.  This sort of thing is happening in pods and communities all over the globe despite what’s going on in the empire of our government or being inflicted upon innocents by murderous tyrants, or endured from icy hearted people who have in my humble opinion lost their way. Never forget that Jesus himself was a survivor of infanticide sanctioned by a Roman governor.

So, I ride the donkey of my life—that humble animal nature that plods along dutifully carrying my burdens and heartfelt intentions. I aspire to carry on, to see the good in people around me and to recognize our many similar concerns. Although I’m not expecting to face death by the end of the week, there is no time to waste. The Way onward into the next days beckons.

Note: Photo taken January 21, 2017, Women’s March, Santa Rosa, CA

First Day of Spring 2017

Facts: today is the first day of Spring; the president of my country is a bald face liar– most probably a puppet of Vladimir Putin, and a disgusting proportion of elected Republicans are shamelessly slithering in the murky undertows  of partisanship having pulled their anchors out of the traditional waterways that used to guide  our country.

I sit watching the dawn of this day. Rays of first light emerge  through the tall trees which are budding with expectancy high above their deep roots within  the clay soil  banks of Lornadell Creek,  just behind our vegetable garden. What am I to make of the startling facts? Where is my root system gathering nourishment… wisdom … understanding… direction?

I feel more vitality when I tap into what I stand “for” rather than just feeling resistance, alarm or abhorrence; and these days all these qualities of feeling waft through my consciousness. What I do know is that,  like many others who have walked upon this good Earth, my essential being is rooted in a much larger awareness that is clearly not of the same understanding and frame of reference as what I am witnessing in so much of today’s politics. Like the wild trees brazenly proclaiming the launch of another growing season, I too am budding with a resolve to live from the bedrock of my essential knowing. It all boils down to these four guidelines:

  1. It’s never been easy.
  2. I am alive in this time period because my life holds the promise and potential to contribute meaningfully into what is happening.
  3. Life is sacred – all of it; the coral reefs, the rivers and the refugees are each part of larger relationships that we know as the gift of life.
  4. We are held in Great Mystery and love by an ultimate reality that is as near as our next thought and as pervasive as the whole universe and beyond.

In the Christian calendar this week marks the celebration of the Annunciation –that bizarre and miraculous exchange between the Archangel Gabriel and the young woman the Holy Spirit sent him to visit. The story goes that young Mary was selected to receive a startling invitation — would she agree to carry the Light of Divinity in her womb and mother this very Light regardless of the human toll this would demand from her? Her reply was a simple: “Yes”.  The sacred story lends inspiration to my day. It informs and emboldens me to say “Yes” to that aspect of my being that carries  life sustaining promise and potential as well as acknowledgment that this path will always demand me to see things with the vision of my essential nature.

Although it is true that caring relationships, compassion and love prevail in both small and large ways in our world; it is also true that this pervasive goodness co-exists alongside the seductive lure of ignorance, fear and corruption. If I’m going to stand tall in the Light of my better nature, I also need to be courageous enough to name bald face lies for what they are as I step wholeheartedly into the growth season ahead. Happy Spring!

Worming My Way To Wholeness

Worming My Way To Wholeness

February 2017

I’m staying in a li;le cabin at a retreat center West of Healdsburg, California seeking respite from my toxic daily
rouEne of obsessive news
checking and a generalized

inability to focus adequately on
my larger life goals. This place
offers the healing energies of
nature, a spiritual focus and
the safety of staying near
others. It’s been raining here, a
lot — at least fiOy-some inches
in a li;le over four months.
During the first night I was here the wind blew sheets of rain against the building. In the wee hours, the din of the deluge awakened even a deep sleeper like me. Later, when I got up I found a li;le red wiggler worm on the linoleum floor of the bathroom. Poor thing, she must have been seeking drier ground and come in through a vent or window casing. Filled with compassion for her plight, I carefully brought her outside to the leeward side of the co;age, beneath the roof overhang and gently laid her squirmy, nervous body on a patch of soO earth.

These past months and weeks have held events, personaliEes and unforeseen outcomes that have shaken me out of a former naiveté and complacency about the outer forces that affect my life. Just a year ago I believed that the human rights and women’s rights I

witnessed being advanced in my lifeEme were indisputable. I believed that the ability of our government to withstand regressive, vulgar power grabs was a foregone conclusion. Even though there have always been doomsayers, I paid them li;le heed. I felt secure that the rare confluence of idealism and pragmaEsm that forged our government along with our accustomed rights and privileges would endure. I didn’t think it could disintegrate with the rapidity that now threatens us.

Now I wish someone would swoop in and pick me up off the floor and carry me to sane ground. Yet I realize it’s an inside job. It’s my head. So, I have taken myself on a healing retreat. For the last four days I have raEoned my consumpEon of breaking news on my cell phone. Walking along nature paths in between raindrops, I’m noEcing the larger cycles of nature that embody inherent mechanisms that bring balance, elegance and ar\ul soluEons into places of disequilibrium. Rain brings an end to drought. Ground water finds a path to the stream. Rainbows bring radiant color aOer the darkness of a storm. Nature holds an inherent longing to bring order and beauty out of chaos, to fashion a simple, elegant soluEon from the disordered, repulsive or dysfuncEonal.

Here in the budding green of February in Northern California, I have come home to a healing sense of wholeness. On my way to morning prayers in the chapel this morning I

saw a very large earthworm drowning in a big puddle of water on the blacktop. I was running late, I didn’t stop. The decision did not sit well with me, so aOer breakfast I returned to the puddle of water. The worm was sEll there. This Eme I listened to my heart. She crawled up on an oak leaf so I could carry her to safer ground.

You may find this hard to believe, but that simple act provided me with sweet joy, not to menEon what it did for the worm.

So for now, simple acts that weave me into the wholeness of nature offer a very effecEve anEdote to my malaise. My firm resolve is to take what I’ve experienced these days on retreat back into town. My intenEon is to conEnue to wean myself from too much breaking news, allowing just enough informaEon to stay informed. I’ll take walks, garden, meditate and engage in acEons that hold deep meaning for me. If I start to forget, hopefully one of the many worms that make their home near mine will remind me to take care of my poor head by sinking back into the wisdom that resides in my heart.